New Voices of Washington is a movement to guarantee student journalists in the state the freedom to report without fear of consequence.
After decades of near-misses, the Washington Legislature enacted strong protections for college and K-12 journalists and advisers in 2018, making the Evergreen State the 14th to pass a New Voices statute. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law, effective June 8, 2018.
Senate Bill 5064 was the brainchild of Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, who worked on the bill for three years before finally securing its passage. The bill was buoyed by the endorsement of the Seattle Times, the state’s largest newspaper, as well as publications across the state. Tacoma’s News Tribune wrote:
Censorship as a tool of school district authoritarianism should be put to a stop at a time when it’s becoming increasingly pointless.
The bill provides comparable press freedoms for K-12 and college students and retaliation protection for their faculty advisers, but with heightened protection for college media that forbids mandatory “prior review” by employees of a public postsecondary institution.
The Senate passed the bill 43-5. It cleared the House 91-6, receiving strong bipartisan support in both chambers.
Leading journalism educators Fern Valentine, Kathy Schrier, Vince DeMiero and Brian Schraum worked for years in the trenches to pass the bill. The bill benefited from persuasive student testimony from journalists like Mariah Valles.